watched as the other breathed, chest rising and falling in slow
harmony. The blankets were cast off below entangled legs,
leaving them both exposed to the depths of the room's darkness.
Outside, he knew, the stars were starting to fade, one by one, giving
sign to the coming dawn. The end.
He brought his fingers gently over his lover's forehead, pushing some stray hair out of his closed eyes. There was the shortest of moments where his breathing stopped and the fingers ceased, afraid that he would wake. No, it would be better this way.
He held her hand, eyes red and dry from hours
of crying. The only sounds came from the bleeping and chirping
of the monitors next to her bed. She felt cold and distant, as
if her soul had already left her body and him far behind. He
didn't want to think about that though.
His fingers slid up and over her clammy skin, hoping that, just maybe, each caress might help keep her here. That it might jolt some part of her sleeping mind and wake her. If she could just remember that there were people here who cared for her more than she could ever know. A sigh, not of defeat, but of utter helplessness slipped past his lips. He pulled his eyes off her comatose form. Outside the sky was still dotted with blinking lights. Hours before now heat had risen off these sheets, giving way to sweat and heartache. Both knew what this was. Now though, he remained still, trying his hardest not to open his eyes. He knew that he was being watched; that nothing he could do would keep him here. And it tore at him. So he remained quiet, breathing as if he had been asleep this entire time. He knew that a long goodbye, or any goodbye, would only result in more pain.
A cramp forming in his stomach urged him to move. He brought his body closer to the form next to him. It startled the other, for he felt the legs that had been tangled close flee. No, no, no... She was somewhere else. On the beach. The moon was high in the midnight sky. The wind blew in perfect tempo, carrying the perfect temperature. The night was perfect. She blinked, not quite knowing where she was or why. The last thing she remembered as one more drink and a hasty...
He came up from behind her, strong arms encasing her in a protective shell. Her eyes closed and she brought her head back to rest against his chest. From beneath his shirt, skin, tissue and bone she could hear his heart throb. For the first time since this had started, she felt safe; felt like she belonged.
"It's beautiful out tonight," she found herself saying, not yet opening her eyes. But she could still see the ripples of the ocean in the distant, illuminated by the pearly light of the moon. Behind her, behind him, mountains rose high. Palm trees swayed and beyond that more of Paradise expanded.
She could feel him smile. "You're beautiful," he said, his head coming down to one side of her neck. He nuzzled his flesh against hers, hands sliding over her exposed stomach. A breeze brushed past them both, tickling their senses.
Her hands came to rest atop his. "I don't want this night to end." His lips pressed up against her neck. "Come back to me."
Her lips curled into a curious smile. It always seemed to make her laugh when he got all funny like this. She wasn't going anywhere. She was standing right with him.
"I'm not going anywhere baby," she said, craning her neck, giving him access to more of her skin. "I'm right here."
And that was when she felt heat on her wrist. Not the sensation of warmth like the sun, but thick, hot heat. Liquid heat. Her eyes snapped open and Paradise cried. He let his legs withdraw from his partner's, sliding over the edge of the mattress. Outside the window he could begin to make out the colors of dawn. Time, he thought, made a cruel bedfellow. That's all he wanted. More time to lay here, entangled and entranced. More time to trace shapes and patterns over whatever bare skin he could get a hold of. More time to show him that he cared, that he didn't want to leave, that life wasn't all bad. That love, this thing that they had, didn't have to end.
But it was all useless. He pulled himself up off the mattress and the pillows, gently putting the rest of the blankets over his sleeping companion. Ever so slowly he came up off the bed, standing. The room seemed to spin for a moment as he readjusted himself to standing. It had been an amazing night.
He pulled his jeans on and grabbed a shirt. As he started to pull it on, he looked back to the other one dozing. Lost in a dream world, perhaps trying to hang onto this a little longer. And he would let him. There would be no kiss goodbye. Just the sun, a shut door and the open road. It all came rushing back to her. The drinks, the fight, the half-attempt at make-up sex and the betrayal. The music in the background. The candles. The tile on the bathroom floor had been cold and inviting for her in this state. With a shaky hand she vowed it over and made her marks.
"Jesus..." Somehow, she knew, He probably wasn't coming for her. Moaning, she found herself stepping forward out of his embrace. "I..."
He said nothing, just watched her with those sad eyes of his, tears having stained his cheeks. For once he was at a loss for words, feeling useless.
She brought her wrists up to her face and saw her own vindication. This was not real. None of this could be happening. Not to her. She loved him and he loved her. No. That wasn't quite right. Otherwise, why would she be standing here in this place?
"I'm sorry," he started to say for the thousandth time. To him it rang hollow in his own head. Those words had probably lost all meaning with her, after all, he had used them so many times. "She meant nothing."
"It didn't seem like that at the time," she said, arms dropping to her sides as she turned to face him. Now her own eyes started to cloud with tears.
"Please, you have to understand, you're all that I want." He took a step toward her, hand outstretched before her, as if he could just grasp her and keep her here.
She nodded, tears falling around the curves of her face. She wanted to tell him that he was all she ever wanted. That she forgave him for the other women. For all the lies. For all the torment that he had put her through. But instead, all she could muster was, "Now that you know you can't have me? Now that you realize the damage has been done?"
That one hurt. He winced and his hand fell. His head hung low as he looked at the sand, feet shifting. He knew she was partially right, but somewhere in all the lies he had told, deep down he wanted only her.
"I love you. You have to believe me..." He looked up, eyes red, yet hopeful.
She closed her eyes and let out a sigh. She did not cry.
"It's too late. I've got to go..."
He came at her on unsteady feet, body shaking. "No, please..."
She shook her head and stepped back. Her body felt heavy, as if the pressure in all the world was coming down on her at once. Her legs started to go numb.
"Please, no, come back. Don't leave me..." He stumbled forward and fell onto his knees. At his barest and honest. "I...need you!"
For once she looked at him and knew that he meant it. It helped. She smiled the faintest of smiles and cried. "I'm on a different path now baby... This is my exit."
His head sunk. Fingers grasped the dirt, tears wet it. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." It took everything he had not to get up and take him in his arms. Tell him not to leave. To stay for just an hour longer. Just and hour. Maybe that would make a difference. But he knew it wouldn't. It was over and they were both going their separate ways. As much as he hated the idea; hated the thought that there would now be a space between them.
When the other had gotten up out of bed, everything felt so cold, despite the fact he now had the entire blanket for himself. There was no body heat, no contact. He had his heart stolen and it wouldn't be found. He felt his teeth sink into his lower lip to fight the whelp of a cry. To fight the tears damming up behind his eyelids. It was if this night had been written to some Dashboard song. He almost laughed then. But he didn't want to give himself away.
There was a rustle and he knew that he was putting on his clothes. One more step and he would be gone. But there was nothing that could be done. Not now. He gripped the blankets close to him, as if they could ever be a replacement for what he had had.
It would never be the same. Light started to filter through the curtains of the window. Just a few more minutes was all he wanted. Despair choked him and he could no longer handle it. He opened his eyes and the water was released. Wait... He blinked, adjusting his eyes to the dim light of a room that wasn't quite bright with light, but not pitch black.
He could see well enough to know that he was finally alone.
His fingers squeezed her hand tighter now.
He could feel it coming. Like when he rode a roller coaster and
knew that they were coming to the top, getting ready to go over the
edge. He would be scared at first, but after the initial panic
and the rush came, it all was right. But now, there was just
foreboding and the thought that he would never see her alive again.
That she would no longer smile for him, dance around in the morning
or tell him that she loved him. No one else, none of the other
women he had been with, ever had done that.
How stupid he had been. He brought his head down to her side and cried. He felt his tears wetting the hospital blanket. His cries muffled by the fabric. She was out there on her own, swimming in the deep ocean, lost and adrift. He could do nothing.
"I love you, I love you, I love..." He recited it over and over through hushed sobs, hoping that it might do something, anything. She was on her back. Floating. Her hair was spread out beside her, as were her arms. She was naked as the sun started to rise, sending rays of light over her figure. She tilted her head back and could see nothing but an endless expanse of ocean. Beneath her, she knew without having to look, that it went down and down, infinite and never ending. There was no going back now. She almost wanted to cry, but felt like it wouldn't be the right thing to do.
No. She had a feeling of peace. She had been loved and loved someone in return. He would move on, she knew, and that was it. She closed her eyes and breathed her last ounce of breath. Then she sank into the deep, never looking back. His head snapped up when the monitors started blaring. The door burst open and people in white charged. There was shouting. There was hurried movements. Terms he did not know spun in his head. But it all added up to one thing: her life. He stepped back, not sure what to do. Not sure that this was actually happening. Everything went hazy and he stumbled against the wall.
One of the people, dressed in a white coat, turned and gave him a grave look. The doctor shook his head and then turned back to his staff. He opened his mouth and reported the time of death. Everything about them was mechanical. They didn't really care.
Only he cared. He sunk to the ground, knees coming up to his chest. He buried his head and cried. The sun was up. Dawn had come. And she would never dance for him again. He stepped outside to be greeted by the rising sun. He looked down at his shoes and the sidewalk in a vain attempt to tear his mind away from what he was about to do. He could just as easily turn around, call the whole thing off and crawl back into bed. But it wasn't going to work like that. Not today.
With a sigh and shake of his head, he got into his car. He put the key in the ignition. He told himself to say everything that he had to do. It would keep him from thinking about the boy inside the house, about the boy he was leaving behind. He turned the key. If this had been a movie, he thought, then it wouldn't have started. It was have struggled a bit, flared to life for a moment and then died. Leaving him with no choice but to go back inside. Sadly, it didn't work out that way. The car roared to life with an almost unexpected vigor.
He gave the house one last look. The car was put into reverse and he backed out of the driveway. Spinning the wheel, he turned out onto the road. One second. Two seconds. Three. Four.
He went on his way and never looked back. Both had to go on with their lives. From his pocket, he felt his phone vibrate. He held back a cry. Summer was at an end.